Open Government Trainings Act

Training is Required

The following information is derived from the Washington State Attorney General’s website.

Effective July 1, 2014, the Open Government Trainings Act (ESB 5964) requires many public officials and all agency records officers to receive training. Here is guidance from the Office of the Attorney General: Open Government Trainings Act Q & A.

State Laws: Washington’s open government requirements are in state law. Open public records laws are at RCW 42.56. Open public meetings laws are at RCW 42.30 and RCW 42.32. These are Washington’s “sunshine laws.” In addition, records management and retention laws are at RCW 40.14.

Why Training is Critical: Public agencies must have a good command of these laws. Training is a key component in correctly implementing and complying with the laws. Training is an important risk management tool. Training can help establish a “culture of compliance” within an agency. Training can help avoid or reduce litigation and its costs. Violations of the open public records and meetings laws can result in penalties, as well as a breakdown in confidence in government.

Training Resources: The Office of the Attorney General provides model rules for complying with the open public records laws, and technical assistance and training on open public records and open public meetings laws. The office also provides access to other free online resources for open government training. As more resources become available, they will be posted or linked on the AG’s website. Agencies may also contact the office to seek in-person training assistance. Contact the Assistant Attorney General for Open Government.

Training materials and/or speakers may also be available to agencies from other sources. Examples are listed after the curriculum* and in the Open Government Trainings Act Q & A.

Online Training Curriculum: The online training curriculum is divided into four lessons. The first three address open government: (1) Open Government Overviews and General Principles, (2) Open Public Records, and (3) Open Public Meetings. Lesson (4) addresses Records Management and Retention. Agencies can use materials that fit their training requirements or needs.

Reminder - Laws Change: The Washington State Legislature can amend the sunshine and records management/retention laws. Courts also issue decisions interpreting these laws. Agencies should review current laws and decisions to determine if training materials they use are consistent with current laws, and whether they should be updated. If there is a difference, the laws govern.

Practice Tip: Document the training. Agencies should determine which staff and/or officials are required to or should receive training. It is a good practice for agencies to document training provided or received by their staff or officials. See the Open Government Training Q & A for more details. A sample training certificate and training roster can be found on the AG’s website. Agencies can use other forms or procedures to document training.

For more information or links to a variety of training videos and PowerPoint presentations, please visit the AG’s office directly at:

http://www.atg.wa.gov/OpenGovernmentTraining.aspx#.VDLrvPldUpN

The State Auditor’s office also has free trainings and resources available on their website at:

http://www.sao.wa.gov/generalinfo/Pages/Open-Government.aspx#.VQMkBo7F8pM

MRSC is an excellent resource for compliance, tips, checklists and more on their website at:

http://mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Legal/Open-Government/OPMA-and-PRA-Practice-Tips-and-Checklists.aspx